A major shake up has been announced to tackle modern day policing in the region - with £10m to be invested in new technology alone.
Under the radical new proposals, police officers in Harrogate and North Yorkshire are to be issued with handheld devices.
The force is to invest £1m in number plate recognition. And a dedicated new unit is to be set up to tackle cyber crime.
“As society changes, so must the way we deliver policing services,” said Chief Constable Dave Jones. “The world has moved on.”
Cuts, worth £1.4m a year, are to be made to find some of the money to invest.
Under the proposals, which are now under consultation, custody suites are to close in Skipton and Selby, with officers to make more use of Harrogate police station.
Senior staffing roles within the supervisory ranks - from chief inspector to superintendent and chief superintendent - are to be reviewed. In Harrogate, one sergeant role is to go.
But, says the chief constable, this will mean they can reinvest in new roles - maintaining numbers at 1,392 police officers and 183 PCSOs in North Yorkshire.
“We are absolutely committed to maintaining that level of front line delivery,” said Chief Constable Jones.
“That does mean there’s going to be some difficult conversations with our communities.”
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner, said the coming changes are absolutely necessary to the future of the police service.
“This has been a root and branch review,” she said. “There is an element of having to make savings. But we don’t want to salami slice the service.
“We need to look at how the service is delivered so that we can create something far more sustainable in the future.”
At the heart of these proposals, she added, was the goal of ensuring that police officers are out in their local communities.
“This is a really significant step forward,” she said.
The force’s Operational Policing Model (OPM), has been in development for eight months under the direction of Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy. It will be fully effective by April ‘16.
A raft of changes have been laid out in the proposals, aimed at freeing up officer time so that they can be back out on the streets.
A new system has already been introduced at force control room, assessing calls as they come in to see if more low-level crimes can be dealt with over the phone.
Harrogate Police station is to become an investigations hub with teams of officers to work on different stages of the investigation, meaning less time in the station for arresting officers.
And North Yorkshire Police is to set up its first Cyber Crime Unit, with dedicated officers to tackle online crime.
This, said Chief Constable Jones, is one of the main focuses for coming years.
“It’s very simple for me,” he said. “We have a part of the world that we need to police.
“It’s like walking down the highway - the internet superhighway - and we need PCs to do that.”
And it isn’t just new departments, he said, new technologies are needed.
Around £10m is to be invested in these developments, providing officers with handheld mobile devices and tablets so that they can file information on the move.
And £1m is to be invested in ANPR number plate technology, tackling cross border criminals coming into the county on what Chief Constable Jones has described as ‘”Viking raids”.
“We have a huge issue with cross border criminals, Viking raiders, coming into our district to commit crimes,” he said.
“Between 30 and 50 per cent of crime in North Yorkshire comes from outside our borders. This is turning a strategic disadvantage, of a large area to patrol, into an advantage. Everybody needs a car to get around in North Yorkshire.”
These are vital changes, added Chief Constable Jones and, recognising that these are tough times, he said the time to invest is now.
“The best time to invest in the future is when times are hard,” he said. “We are trying to get match fit.
“It is a shrinking pot. What we don’t want is to slash and burn in a few year’s time.”
WHAT CHANGES MEAN TO NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE
NYP will be reviewing senior rank structure, including chief inspector, superintendent, and chief superintendent, which will mean it can boost the number of PCs by 20.
This will save £1.4m a year. In Harrogate, Neighbourhood PCs (19) and PCSO numbers (24) will be maintained at current levels, supported by Response teams, Roads Policing Group and Road Crime Team. Sergeant numbers are to be cut from five to four through redistribution or retirement, while the existing four Inspector-led Neighbourhood Policing Teams will remain. There will be an increase in the number of Special Constables.
As part of the £10m investment, £1m is to be invested in Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). NYP says this will significantly free up officer time so they can spend more time in communities. NYP says ANPR will make a huge difference in North Yorkshire, where between 30 and 50 per cent of crime is committed by people coming into the county - often by car.
To be created in Harrogate, along with York, Scarborough and Northallerton. Idea is that there will be a mix of people to deal with each stage of the investigation, so that arresting officers can be straight back on the street, and the victim has one point of contact. NYP says this will speed the process up, meaning officers can be back on their beats quicker. A citizens in policing board is also to be created to make better use of Special Constabulary and volunteers.
CYBER CRIME UNIT
NYP is to set up its first dedicated cyber crime unit to tackle the growing problem of online fraud and offences against children. The goal is for it to be set up by the end of the year, with four dedicated officers. Issues include online fraud, stolen goods being stolen on eBay, crimes against children, and children accessing the internet.
A new model to assess calls to the force control room was introduced in April. Thrive assesses threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement in deciding if officers are needed to attend a low-level incident, like shed burglary, or if it can be resolved over the phone. NYP says this allows for more bespoke service, also meaning police officers and staff can be where they are needed most. Officers say this system is better as often callers don’t want to wait in all day for an officer to attend, and feedback so far has been good. Previously, 14 per cent of crimes were dealt with over the phone, that figure now 25 per cent - freeing up around 20 hours of officer time a day.
NYP is investing £10m. Handheld mobile devices and tablets will allow officers to fill in paperwork on the move, without having to return to station. There will be more video conferencing, and it will allow for a specialist deployment system. Senior staff can know where officers are, how long they’ve been there, and there is potential in the future for video, pictures, and even mobile fingerprints and ANPR. The technology has worked in other forces, allowing an extra hour per officer per shift.